OP-ED | Bills Raised for the 2019 Session: The Good, The Bad, and the Weird
The third week of the session has begun, so it’s a good time to see what sorts of things your representatives in Hartford are proposing. For simplicity’s sake, I’ve divided these bills into three categories: good, bad, and … weird.
Let’s dive right in!
There are several high-profile bills raised this session that are good ideas, from the legalization of marijuana to establishing a public health insurance option. There are also several bills out there that would reduce the use of plastic bags and straws or ban plastic bags entirely.
But there are plenty of other good ideas in the legislature that aren’t getting as much press. For instance, there is a suite of bills aimed at making life better for LGBTQ people in Connecticut. One bill would create the option of a nonbinary gender option on state forms, while another bill would establish an LGBT health and human services network, and a third would protect transgender and gender non-conforming students in schools by allowing them access to safe bathrooms. Sen. Martin Looney, D-New Haven, also has raised a bill that would prevent the use of the transgender and gay panic defense in court. Basically, this bill would mean that no one gets a free pass by claiming that they had freaked out because they had found out that someone was gay or trans, and killed them for it.
Other good ideas include the creation of an “Hispanic and Communities of Color Nonprofit Stabilization and Growth Fund,” which would support the much-needed work these nonprofits do.
Two bills have to do with prisons: one would end the practice of counting prisoners as “residents” of the town where they’re incarcerated, which affects state money allocation among other things. Another would restore electoral privileges to the incarcerated. I suspect neither bill will be popular, sadly.
There were also some ideas about voting and elections that I’d love to see gain traction, such as one that would require polling locations serving more than one district to color-code ballots in order to avoid situations like the one from November that’s still being sorted out. In that case, a few dozen voters were given the wrong ballot in what turned out to be a very close election. Another bill would study ranked-choice voting, which debuted in Maine in 2018. A proposed constitutional amendment would empower an independent commission to draw district boundaries instead of a committee of the legislature. Please, yes.
A few random good ideas: a bill that would force schools to push back opening times so students can sleep, a bill banning anyone convicted of animal abuse from adopting an animal, a proposed repeal of the hated business entity tax, and Sen. Looney’s regional school district bill, which would combine school districts for towns with less than 40,000 residents. I like the idea: but that’s a whole other column.
Does anyone think having people carry their firearms into state parks is a good idea? Well, Rep. Craig Fishbein does. This isn’t even close to being the worst thing out there, though.
For example, there’s a bill that would change us to Atlantic Time, therefore putting Connecticut in a different time zone from New York City, and another that would let people buy lottery tickets with a credit or debit card. I didn’t know this wasn’t a thing already, but it seems like a bad idea.
There are a number of bills that are all about punishing people for being poor, too, including a bill to require recipients of supplemental nutrition assistance to work, another that would require Medicaid recipients to work, and another cutting off public assistance for anyone who leaves the state for more than 30 days. God forbid you have to, say, take care of an ailing parent or ship off to Afghanistan.
And Rep. John E. Piscopo would like us to eliminate “climate change materials” from the Next Generation Science Standards. If we go this route we might as well not teach any sciences.
Then there’s a bill that would let towns post legal notices on their own websites instead of paying to put them in print or online newspapers. I feel like this would be an easy way for towns to bury legal notices somewhere that people would never, ever find them, and that would be bad for everyone.
Sometimes, there are bills raised that seem a little odd. Let’s see what this year’s crop has given us.
First, there are bills in the “Are you sure that’s a thing?” category, such as a bill banning the sale of shark fins, or another banning the sale of cetaceans (i.e., whales). I know I’ve seen whales for sale at Petco, all squished into their tiny, tiny tanks. It’s heartbreaking.
Then there are very local, very specific proposals, like a bill erecting a sign designating Easton the “Christmas Tree Capital of Connecticut.” Which apparently it is?
There’s also a bill to erect another sign to point people to the Strong Family Farm, wherever that is, and one that would point out three attractions in Vernon. I was unaware Vernon had even one attraction, so this is probably necessary.
And lastly, there are bills that must have a weird story behind them, like “An Act Establishing A Tax Credit For Meat Processors That Volunteer Their Services For Certain Purposes” and “An Act Concerning ‘Rolling Coal’ As A Bias Crime.”
My favorite of the bunch is one allowing breweries to sell a “log” of beer. That is in the title: “An Act Allowing Connecticut Breweries To Sell A ‘Log’ Of Beer Per Person Per Day.” Apparently this is an actual kind of beer measurement, so I have learned something wonderful today.
That’s it for this year’s bill roundup! One log to go for me, thanks.
Susan Bigelow is an award-winning columnist and the founder of CTLocalPolitics. She lives in Enfield with her wife and their cats.
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